As Ireland recovered after the battering storm Desmond gave the entire country, I decided last night (9/12/15) it’d be a good idea to tune into MSG networks to catch the New York Knicks take on the Utah Jazz in the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. The Knicks so far this season have been topsy-turvy, but have shown a marked improvement upon last year’s total implosion. To me, they’re beginning to revive the ‘Knickstape’ atmosphere that surrounded the team in the days of JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler, Steve Novak and of course the unmistakable and irreplaceable Chris Copeland.
Of course, knowing my luck, by the time I had begun watching NYK play they were down 27-9 with 2 minutes to play in the first quarter. Immediately regretting my decision to switch from the competitive LA-Minnesota game (Which ended up being a memorable affair), I contemplated resigning my attention from this particular Knicks game to a more competitive affair in the League. However, as the mouse hovered over the ‘close’ option, the audio on my reliably slow laptop kicked in and who else, but Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier was commentating on the game along with Mike Breen.
For those of you who don’t know who Walt is, first of all, there’s a whole part of your soul that you’ve neglected and second of all, he is one of the NBA’s first and most decorated superstars. He led the Knicks to the championship in 1970 with an inspirational game 7 performance against the LA Lakers as well as a 1973 triumph, along with Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe, in what was described as a ‘Rolls Royce’ backcourt. He had the first signature shoe, the Puma ‘Clyde’, something which lay down a marker, as seen as almost anyone who makes an Allstar team gets one nowadays. He played in seven Allstar games actually, to go with an Allstar MVP award and seven All-defensive and All-NBA team nominations. This post could, predictably, describe the playing career of one of the pillars of a glittering period in the Knicks’ storied history, but this is indeed a feature on the present day through a nostalgic looking glass.
Indeed, even the most passionate of Knicks and sports fans would’ve given up the ghost on their encounter with the Jazz being in any way competitive once Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis were benched, and that’s how it turned out, but not for the first time, I was mesmerized by Clyde’s colourful, detailed and poetic commentary. Last night’s game featured his usual phrases ‘Swishing and dishing/ Wheelin and dealin/Slicin and dicin’ but it also livened up what was a dull blowout. Throughout the game made what was a morbid spectacle into a memorable one, something commentators are supposed to do. Ireland’s only relative equivalent would be Jimmy McGee, ‘The memory man’, who only seems to recount the past while commentating on the present and ALWAYS manages to compare anyone, be it Lionel Messi or Bernard Brogan to Muhammad Ali. The unique thing about Clyde is his persona which is a juxtaposition of past and present. Clyde is the essence of cool, yet he still carries an inherent air of trademark class about him which is reflected in his commentary style, as pictured below.
Although this post may be written with the biased fingers of an avid Knicks fan, anyone can vouch for Clyde’s effortless display of descriptive mastery. Last night for example, I noted down some of his descriptions of Trevor Booker and Derrick Favors’ performances.
‘Favors dancing in the paint’
‘Booker with a nasty, sassy rejection’
‘My homeboy from Atlanta, Georgia stumbling and bumbling around the basket’
‘Bounding and astounding’
‘Both creating mayhem and havoc’
‘Favors with the post and roast’
Many of you may call this unconventional and ridiculous but for one thing, it kept me interested in a Knick game where Sasha Vujacic played more than Melo (It was that bad). Not only that but Clyde’s artistic and vintage commentating offers a desperately needed avenue away from the statistical and analytical nature of NBA commentating. With Clyde of course, he knows his stuff, but he focuses much more on what is going on on the court rather than what a calculator and a piece of paper present to him, and he does so incredibly well. It’s also pretty cool to have one of the Knick greats calling the games and providing the odd snippet of bygone New York life as well, like how he was front row at a Frank Sinatra concert because ‘I know people’. NBA commentating on non-nationally televised games always gives a certain, obvious bias towards one team, depending on what network it’s being aired on, however, Clyde is usually quite honest in his analysis of the Knicks’ performance and often gives an incredibly interesting insight into what the players may be thinking or feeling, given that he used to light up Madison Square Garden himself.
Clyde in some ways represents some facets of the NBA itself as it is beginning to move back to its roots in some ways, with the ascension of a multitude of big men like DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Paul Millsap and Favors himself, all on the brink of stardom amongst a sea of happy-go-lucky 3-point sharpshooters. Most of these can also shoot the trey representing their modernisation, while they can still get down and dirty in the paint, which is a throwback to the days of Shaq and Hakeem, much like Clyde’s mixture of old and new.
So if you ever feel lonely, an interest in basketball or not, find a Knicks game and listen in to the exquisite and unrivaled exhibition in commentary that is Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier’s voice.